Wendell Carter Jr. spent the majority of his lone season at Duke in the shadows of his teammate Marvin Bagley III, the potential #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, according to several NBA Mock Drafts. Carter Jr. showed plenty of potential despite being in those shadows, but he showed in those moments why his game could make an immediate impact on a NBA franchise especially in the Eastern Conference.
Carter Jr. is expected to be a Top 10 selection, but if he were to fall outside of the Top 10, do the Hornets take him with their #11 pick?
I say yes for several reasons, as he could be a fit with the Hornets based on his skill set and production this past season at Duke, how his game fits in with the direction the NBA is going, how he compares to Al Horford and Markieff Morris, and why the Hornets need to draft a power forward in the first round.
Carter Jr.’s Skill Set and Production as a Freshman at Duke
In 37 game appearances as a freshman in this past season with Duke, Carter Jr. averaged 13.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game while shooting 56.1% from the floor and 41.3% from distance. He recorded several career high and highlight performances during those 37 game appearances.
First, in his fourth career game as a Blue Devil, Carter Jr. turned in an impressive performance against Southern University; in 28 minutes played, Carter Jr. dropped 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 6 blocked shots while shooting 77.8% from the floor.
Second, when Duke was ranked the #5 team in the nation they hosted Pittsburgh on January 20th, where Carter Jr. turned in a 21 point and 8 rebound performance and also recorded 3 blocks in that game as well, including this highlight block:
Third, just a few days later on January 23rd, the Blue Devils played Wake Forest on the road and in 34 minutes played, Carter Jr. recorded 23 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocked shots and managed to shoot 66.7% from the floor and an impressive 76.9% from the line (10-for-13) in Duke’s 84-70 win over Wake Forest.
Finally, in a home contest on February 21st against Louisville, Carter Jr. showed all his talents and his full skill set. In 30 minutes played he recorded 18 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocked shots while shooting 6-for-10 from the floor, 1-for-1 from distance, and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Other highlight performances came throughout the rest of the season as Carter Jr. was able to record 16 double-double performances in his lone season; this mark ranked him higher than Texas’s Mo Bamba, Cincinnati’s Gary Clark, Wake Forest’s Doral Moore, and Southern Cal’s Chimezie Metu.
In fact, in those 16 games that Carter Jr. recorded a double-double performance, the Duke Blue Devils finished 14-2. That mark compares to former Kansas freshman Josh Jackson who recorded 13 double-double performances in his lone season with the Jayhawks in the 2016-2017 season. Kansas finished 11-2 in those 13 games. Jackson would later get drafted fourth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Defensively, Carter Jr. finished averaging 6.1 defensive rebounds per game and 2.1 blocks as well; his defensive rebound total per game ranked him in the NCAA ahead of the likes of Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams (6.1), Boston College’s Ky Bowman (6.0), Loyola Chicago’s Donte Ingram (5.9), and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (5.7).
How his Game Fits to the NBA, especially in the Eastern Conference
If we took Carter Jr.’s three-point percentage from his lone season at Duke at (41.3%) he would rank in the Top 5 active power forwards and/or centers in the Eastern Conference in the NBA. Only Kevin Love, Karl Anthony-Towns, Al Horford, and Anthony Tolliver would have a higher three-point percentage than Carter Jr. from this past NBA season.
During this past season at Duke, Carter Jr. had three games where he made multiple three-pointers; Evansville (4), Wake Forest (2), and UNC (2). He had another 14 games with at least one three-pointer made, including streaks of four games in a row (versus Miami (FL), 1/15) to (versus UVA, 1/27), and three in a row (versus Virginia Tech, 2/14) to (Louisville, 2/21).
How Carter Jr’s Game Compares to Al Horford and Markieff Morris
As stated above, the Eastern Conference forwards and centers have had to change their style of play as the NBA has shifted from back-to-the-basket big men to present day athletic big men who can produce outside of the paint as well e.g. Boston Celtics big man Al Horford and Washington Wizards big man Markieff Morris.
In 11 NBA seasons, Al Horford has shot a career 37.0% on his three-pointers (292-789) while shooting 52.5% from the floor (4291-8180) as well. Horford has a career average of 14.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. In fact, in his last three NBA seasons with the Hawks and Celtics, Horford’s total numbers from three-pointers made has increased; 97 made in 2017-2018, 86 made in 2016-2017, and 88 made in 2015-2016, compared to only making 21 total threes in his first eight NBA seasons.
In eight NBA seasons, Markieff Morris has averaged 11.9 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 45.1% from the floor, 33.8% from distance, and 77.8% from the line. Morris also has career averages of 1.7 assists per game, 0.6 blocks, and 0.9 steals as well. Like Horford, Morris has made improvements in his game in rebounding, three-point shooting, shooting from the floor, and passing ability.
Here’s how Carter Jr.’s numbers from this past season at Duke compared to Al Horford’s and Markieff Morris’s numbers this past season in the NBA;
- Wendell Carter Jr- 13.5ppg 9.1rpg 56.1 FG% 41.3 3PT% 73.8% 2.0apg 2.1bpg
- Al Horford- 12.9ppg 7.4rpg 48.9 FG% 42.9 3PT% 78.3 FT% 4.7apg 1.1bpg
- Markieff Morris- 11.5ppg 5.6rpg 48.0 FG% 36.7 3PT% 82.0 FT% 1.9apg 0.5bpg
If Wendell Carter Jr. was to fall to the Hornets at #11 in this year’s NBA Draft, he would be the best available big man that the Hornets could take and he would make an immediate impact with the Hornets franchise.
Why the Hornets Need a Power Forward with the #11 Overall Pick in the 2018 NBA Draft
Marvin Williams has been the primary starter for the Hornets in each of the four seasons he has played for the franchise since arriving in the 2014-0215 season, but he has had up and down numbers in terms of point production (7.4, 11.7, 11.2, 9.5) as well rebounding per game (4.9, 6.4, 6.6, 4.7) and minutes per game (26.1, 28.9, 30.2, 25.7).
Williams’ 9.5 points per game this past season ranked him 179th in the entire NBA, behind the likes of Lonzo Ball, Yogi Ferrell, Pau Gasol, Joe Harris, and fellow teammates Dwight Howard and Frank Kaminsky. More importantly, Williams’s 9.5 points per game would rank him last in the Southeast Division among all-active starting power forwards; John Collins (10.5ppg), Kelly Olynyk and Markieff Morris (11.5ppg), and Aaron Gordon (17.6ppg) all have higher points per game averages than Marvin Williams.
In terms of rebounding, Williams averaged 4.7 rebounds this past season, which ranked him tied for 117th in the NBA, behind the likes of Stephen Curry, Brandon Ingram, Aron Baynes, and Lonzo Ball, while ranking 5th in the Hornets behind Nicolas Batum, Willy Hernangomez, Cody Zeller, and Dwight Howard.
Williams’s primary backup thus far has been Frank Kaminsky, who will be entering his fourth NBA season and has gradually been getting better each season for the Hornets.
This past season, Kaminsky averaged 11.1 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 42.9% from the floor, 38.0% from distance, and 79.9% from the free throw line. His field goal, three-point , and free-throw percentage this season all were career highs for Kaminsky.
Kaminsky has two years left on his contract like Williams does, but his contract is much cheaper than Williams’ current contract (Kaminsky- 2 yrs/$8.5mil, Williams- 2 yrs/$29.1 mil) and gives the Hornets flexibility in the future for the franchise if they added Carter Jr. to the power forward mix in this year’s draft. Kaminsky has shown flashes that he has the potential to be a NBA big man who can contribute night in and night out, but I believe he would get much better having a front court player like Carter Jr. play right alongside him.
Overall, Wendell Carter Jr. showed a lot of potential in his lone season at Duke with his 16 double-double performances, overall skill set, and his basketball I.Q. If he were to fall to the Hornets at #11, the Hornets should pick him based on his skill set and production, how his game fits in with the direction the NBA is going, how his game compares to Al Horford and Markieff Morris, and the Hornets’ need to find a replacement for Marvin Williams at the power forward spot moving forward.